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Home Thoughts from Abroad: The Variable Impacts of Diasporas on Peace-Building
Unformatted Document Text:  “Muhammed Ali, Victor Mooney, Alex Haley, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Alice Walker, Ishmael Reed are not the only African Americans with Irish roots. It has emerged that Barack Obama’s great-great-great-grandfather originated from Moneygall in County Offaly” 3 The phrase ‘Irish Diaspora’ is normally used in conjunction with Irish-America and officially, the United States, accounts for over 43 million Irish-Americans. The 1990 census in the United States showed that 43.7 million Americans (19% of the total population) defined themselves as Irish-American. (Arthur, 2000, 136; O’Hanlon, 1998, 13) While the political impact of Irish-America on US policy towards Northern Ireland should not be overstated, the seeds of its periodic political interest lie in the existence of an Irish-American lobby which, during particular pressure points in the conflict and during the peace process, has had an impact upon US government policy. Throughout the course of the current conflict in Northern Ireland, several Irish –American pressure groups have played a very public role in lobbying the US government on issues relating to Northern Ireland. The reasons for this level of interest are both historical and political, linked to regular waves of Irish migration to the US during the 19 th and 20 th centuries. This produced a tight network of Irish-Americans who steadily grew in power and influence within civil society, not just within the police force and the construction industry, but increasingly within labour unions, major business enterprises, NGOs and the public sector. They formed their own political and cultural support mechanisms such as the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) and the Gaelic Athletic Association, (GAA) while the Catholic Church functioned as another element of the social glue that allowed Irish-Americans to connect and reinforce one another. Financial Support During the 1970s and 1980s, the latent interest in the conflict in Northern Ireland led to the formation of several Irish-American NGOs and a flow of money into militant republican groups within Northern Ireland. The Irish National Caucus (INC) formed in 1974, was a constant critic of British government policy in Northern Ireland in the 1970s and 1980s, and highlighted perceived human rights abuses carried out by the security forces. The relative success of the INC as a Washington-based activist group illustrates the capacity of Diaspora communities to play more of a role than simply fund-raising or lobbying in pursuit of violence in their homelands. The INC was not the only face of the Irish-American community 3 See: http://www.irishamericansforobama.com/

Authors: Cochrane, Feargal., Swain, Ashok. and Baser, Bahar.
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“Muhammed Ali, Victor Mooney, Alex Haley, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Alice Walker,
Ishmael Reed are not the only African Americans with Irish roots. It has emerged that Barack
Obama’s great-great-great-grandfather originated from Moneygall in County Offaly
The phrase ‘Irish Diaspora’ is normally used in conjunction with Irish-America and officially,
the United States, accounts for over 43 million Irish-Americans. The 1990 census in the
United States showed that 43.7 million Americans (19% of the total population) defined
themselves as Irish-American. (Arthur, 2000, 136; O’Hanlon, 1998, 13) While the political
impact of Irish-America on US policy towards Northern Ireland should not be overstated, the
seeds of its periodic political interest lie in the existence of an Irish-American lobby which,
during particular pressure points in the conflict and during the peace process, has had an
impact upon US government policy. Throughout the course of the current conflict in Northern
Ireland, several Irish –American pressure groups have played a very public role in lobbying
the US government on issues relating to Northern Ireland. The reasons for this level of
interest are both historical and political, linked to regular waves of Irish migration to the US
during the 19
th
and 20
th
centuries. This produced a tight network of Irish-Americans who
steadily grew in power and influence within civil society, not just within the police force and
the construction industry, but increasingly within labour unions, major business enterprises,
NGOs and the public sector. They formed their own political and cultural support
mechanisms such as the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) and the Gaelic Athletic
Association, (GAA) while the Catholic Church functioned as another element of the social
glue that allowed Irish-Americans to connect and reinforce one another.
Financial Support
During the 1970s and 1980s, the latent interest in the conflict in Northern Ireland led to the
formation of several Irish-American NGOs and a flow of money into militant republican
groups within Northern Ireland. The Irish National Caucus (INC) formed in 1974, was a
constant critic of British government policy in Northern Ireland in the 1970s and 1980s, and
highlighted perceived human rights abuses carried out by the security forces. The relative
success of the INC as a Washington-based activist group illustrates the capacity of Diaspora
communities to play more of a role than simply fund-raising or lobbying in pursuit of
violence in their homelands. The INC was not the only face of the Irish-American community
3


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